Welcome back to Farbulous Creations! I’m Ron, and today we’ve got a super simple project, so I’ll keep the intro here relatively short! We’re going to be making some cutesy seasonal canning magnets on the laser cutter, so let’s hop on in!
The origin of the artwork for these canning-themed magnets is a bit humbling. I’ve always had a bit of an entrepreneurial spirit – but especially so over the past few years. I’ve came up with various business ideas, only to let the idea fizzle out or soon get distracted by the next shiny idea that came along.
Well I got pretty into canning in the summer of 2015, and whenever I get into any new hobby, I find my people on Facebook, Reddit and the like. Business-minded Ron thought to himself, there’s all these people who like canning, surely there’s a market for people who are into canning who might be interested in buying canning themed merchandise for themselves or family – tshirts, wall art, aprons, etc. Well, he guessed wrong.
After a bit of market research and experimentation and trying not to spam the communities I was a part of, I determined that most people who are into canning are pretty frugal, and weren’t looking to buy a canning-themed tshirt, especially at prices that would make dropshipping worthwhile.
So prior to discovering this, I was spending my nights and weekends developing canning artwork on my iPad with my new-fangled Apple Pencil… and I was actually pretty proud of some of it. One of the things I developed was a set of line-art canning illustrations for use in larger, more complex artworks or patterns.
After the canning business idea died, I was left with all of the artwork collecting dust in my archives. Looking through it one day, I thought – hey, this line art stuff would be perfect for the laser cutter, and if cut on wood, would look super cute and rustic on our fridge. So I decided to make like Disney, and release the artwork from its dusty vault for this project.
One of the first things I had to do to make the artwork suitable for laser cutting was to prep an outline shape for each design. That is, create a shape that represented the composite, inside area of the artwork to use to make a consistent offset and outer shape for the cut lines of my magnets. I know that sounded a little complex, so let’s take a look at a specific example, the “jiggler.”
If we click on the artwork, we can see that it’s made up of a bunch of overlapping strokes, none of which are solid shapes. So first we’ll expand it to create outlines from those strokes – creating shapes with fill and no stroke, rather than lines with a stroke and no fill. Once that’s done, we can use the Pathfinder “Unite” tool to merge them down into one shape – Adobe Illustrator is my vector tool of choice, but this should be available in other tools like Inkscape or Corel Draw, and is likely called “boolean” or something of the sort.
After doing the “Unite” you can see that the neck of the jiggler is still white – that’s because there wasn’t actually a fill in that part of the original shape, so there was nothing to “merge” down to. But that’s easy enough to fix by double clicking into the compound shape and selecting the offending path and deleting it. Clicking back out gives us our “backing” piece we’ll use to create the cut line. We’ll do this by selecting the individual parts of our new shape (that is, if there are multiple pieces – I think this is the only one that had multiple pieces in my design), and going to the Object menu, Path, and selecting “Offset Path.” This will create a new shape that is, like the name implies, offset from the source path by a defined measurement. This can be whatever you want, but in this case, the lines representing the jiggler’s jiggliness are separate from the main path, and so I needed to make sure that the offset paths overlapped so that I could merge them into one shape – if my offset was too low, the separate shapes wouldn’t be mergeable in the resulting offset. After creating the offset and changing it green for visibility, I deleted the source path that I used to create the offset, and, having copied the original artwork to my clipboard prior to all this fussing around and manipulation, pasted it back in place and brought it to the front to sit atop its new cutout shape.
As a quick note, any offset paths that still have holes in them, such as the “jar lifter” here did – the inner paths can be removed the same way as we did earlier, by clicking into the shape and selecting them. You could opt to leave these, but I’d rather these magnets have a solid backing without any holes on the inside.
Once all the artwork was processed in this way, I could change the green fills to blue lines to represent the cuts.
Next up, arranging the artwork for the laser. Now I don’t yet have a camera for my Thunder Laser Nova 35-80 – I’d like to get one in time, but I just haven’t needed one yet. But I did have a peculiar shaped offcut of the plywood I’d be using that I wanted to optimize for, so I took a picture of it laying flat on my laser’s honeycomb bed, and brought that photo into Illustrator, scaled to real size, and used it to place my artwork on top of. In hindsight, editing this video, it probably would have made more sense to arrange my magnets on the weird end of the plywood since I’d already went through the trouble of photographing it. Ah well. I also created a cut line to separate my magnets from the rest of the piece of plywood for later use.
The plywood I’m using for my magnets is a maple veneered, MDF core 5 mm thick plywood. I don’t love MDF in general, but I can’t deny how nicely it cuts on the laser – the edge seems to melt rather than burn, thanks no doubt to all the adhesives used to hold the fibers and sawdust together. The nice thing about this is that the edges don’t rub off charred residue like other woods do. Just make sure to have good ventilation when using MDF – it’s not a no-no material for the laser, but the smell produced by the adhesives certainly isn’t pleasant.
After bringing my artwork file into Lightburn, I adjusted my laser cut settings. You may see that the etch layer is set to 1000 mm speed and 100% power – well I didn’t actually use 100% power. I’m using Lightburn’s “Power Scale” function to modulate the power of this shape down to 5%. For whatever reason, there’s a difference, software-wise, between setting the layer directly to 5% power vs. setting it to 100% power and then scaling each shape back to 5%, and the result is much nicer with the power scaling. If you are a Ruida control-board expert, feel free to let me know down in the comments what’s going on under the hood here – I’d love to know.
Once set up and ready to go, I could send my job to the laser cutter. I ended up doing a second pass of the raster as I was hoping for it to be darker, but later realized that after blowing all the dust out, it didn’t really have much of an effect after all. One pass would have sufficed and taken far less time. Oh well, now I know for next time.
After the raster pass, the laser went about doing the vector pass next. I love the musical-notes-like sounds the motors make as they finely traverse the lines of the vector pass. It’d be fun to find a cut file that could somehow play the Mario theme song or an old midi ringtone.
Next up, sanding. As you can tell, there’s a decent amount of char and smoke residue on the surface of our magnets – you could certainly tape them with some sort of masking tape to prevent this, but then you’ve got to remove all the tiny pieces of tape that are left behind – I’d much prefer to sand, as it goes relatively quickly. The only thing to be careful of is making sure you have enough thickness in your top veneer to sand with – if your veneer is too thin, you may end up sanding into the core of your plywood which will not look very nice.
To sand, I place a large sheet of 320 grit sandpaper down on my work surface and rubbed each magnet’s face into the sandpaper, using a circular motion. I’d highly recommend wearing a pair of non-disposable gloves for something like this, as you’ll start sanding away your fingertips too if you’re not careful, and because it’s such a fine grit sandpaper, it doesn’t start hurting until you’ve already worn into them a bit. Ask me how I know.
After sanding all of the magnets, occasionally tapping sawdust off the sandpaper, it was time to blow the dust out of the crevices of the design. Half of this is from the raster engraving process, the other half is from the sanding. This is where an air compressor comes in handy, as it makes quick work of it and really gets it all out. If you don’t have an air compressor, you could use canned air, or even tap them out really good onto a soft but sturdy surface. This part is pretty satisfying, as it’s where your design finally pops and becomes clear.
Next up, gluing the magnets on. Neodymium magnets are great for this, but make sure you order ones with proper thickness – I had ordered these awhile back for a different project and they’re only like 1mm thick, thus, don’t have a ton of holding power. For a refrigerator magnet, using a few 2-3 mm thick neodymium magnets would be perfect in terms of holding power. But because my magnets were thinner and less powerful, I used way more than you’d normally use on something like this, just to get rid of them honestly. I’ll have a link to properly-sized magnets down in the description for you.
As for glue, I used extra-thick super glue to prevent it from running all over the place and to add a little more of a sticky base for the magnet to grab onto. I also didn’t do all the magnets on each one all at once, otherwise I found that they started trying to pull together before the glue set. Dealing with magnets that are trying to pull together while also covered in super glue isn’t fun.
After the glue had a chance to cure, I could test the holding power on the side of my truck. Yup! It sticks, and is plenty strong to hold up some papers or a greeting card.
Now you could certainly choose to stop here and call them done – there’s nothing wrong with unfinished wood laser projects in my opinion, and adds to their rustic charm. But in this case, since they’re destined for a kitchen fridge, I figured over time grease residue would be easier to wipe off if there was a clear coat of some sort on them.
So I flipped my magnets over and used a satin-finish water-based polyurethane, taking very light passes, coming back every 20 minutes or so to add another coat until there were 3 coats. I then did a light sanding, blew the dust out the same as earlier, and added one final coat. The result was a very smooth, slight sheen finish that looks nice and will be easy to occasionally wipe down during a deep clean of the kitchen.
All that was left was to put them on the fridge! As I was placing them I was thinking this is probably too many magnets to keep on the fridge all the time for my semi-minimalistic tastes, so I’ll probably keep a few of my favorites and give the rest away to neighbors or friends. If I ever get an online store setup and decide to sell these, I’ll put a link down in the description. It’d be quite ironic if they eventually became a hot seller, considering the artwork is from another failed business idea of mine.
So there we go! A quick and simple project, in the bag. Now obviously you can use whatever artwork you want for a project like this – it can be stuff you designed yourself, like I did, or stuff that you’ve found that is royalty free or stock vector art that you’ve paid for. Whichever it is though, just make sure that it’s available for commercial use if you plan to sell the magnets you make with the artwork.
I hope you enjoyed this video and learned something! If you did, feel free to like and subscribe, and I’ll see you in the next one. Cheers!